France unveiled an €18 billion “Marshall Plan for tourism” to save the “jewel in the crown” of the world’s most visited nation in the wake of coronavirus.
The massive package came as Italians were offered financial incentives to holiday on home soil along with a €4bn bailout plan for the country’s tourism industry.
France welcomed nearly 90 million foreign tourists last year but a two-month nationwide lockdown to stem the viral epidemic has forced 95 per cent of its hotels to remain shuttered since mid-March with many facing imminent bankruptcy.
The country started cautiously unwinding confinement this week2020欧洲杯网站, allowing people to return to work but hotels, along with cafes, bars, restaurants, major museums and public parks remain closed while the French can travel no further than 100 kilometres (62-miles) from home.
Amid mounting despair over the impending summer season, the government pledged to do what it takes to keep afloat an industry that accounts for almost eight per cent of the country's economy and employs two million people.
“Whatever strikes tourism strikes the heart of France,” said prime minister Edouard Philippe as he announced the measures on Thursday.
2020欧洲杯网站"Tourism is facing what is probably its worst challenge in modern history. Because this is one of the crown jewels of the French economy, rescuing it is a national priority." The nation’s very soul was a stake, he insisted.
2020欧洲杯网站"This very French pleasure, which is at the heart of our identity, to meet up, eat well and have a chat, has been compromised by the lockdown first, and then the conditions of lifting that lockdown," he said.
2020欧洲杯网站The plan includes €1.3 billion in direct public investment as well as government-guaranteed loans and extended access to a "solidarity fund”.
2020欧洲杯网站In all, the government intervention represents "a commitment of more than €18 billion in public finances: it is without precedent, it is massive, it is necessary," he said.
2020欧洲杯网站To prevent job losses, the state will continue reimbursing companies for 70 per cent of the gross wages of workers they put on furlough until at least the end of September. That support will not continue in other less-affected sectors.
In a huge source of relief to a nation that relishes its long summer break, Mr Edouard said that the French “will be able to holiday in France in July and August” unless the outbreak flares up again.
2020欧洲杯网站He also expressed hope that restaurants would be able to reopen on June 2 in the country's "green zones" where the virus is not circulating widely.
That would, however, rule out an immediate return of the dining scene in Paris, a virus hotspot "red zone”.
Italy’s government also threw a lifeline to its hard-hit tourism sector by offering incentives for nationals to take their holidays in Il Bel Paese (The Beautiful Country) this summer.
The holiday bonus will be given to families with a household income of less than €40,000.
Families of three people or more will be entitled to €500, while couples will be given €300 and single people will receive €150.
The bonus must be used to book a holiday in Italy between July 1 and the end of the year.
The initiative was part of a long-awaited package of measures worth €55 billion designed to help the country recover from the pandemic, which has killed more than 30,000 people.
Despite the severity of Italy’s outbreak, the government has also promised that Italians will be able to go on holiday this summer.
2020欧洲杯网站Tourism accounts for around 15 per cent of Italy's GDP, or €270 billion a year.